The Home for Halloween Giveaway
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EXCERPT: THE HOME
By Scott Nicholson
(From Chapter 1)
Freeman glanced up at the windows on the second floor. A pale blur of motion appeared at one of them. A face? Someone watching?
Paranoid already. Good.
Freeman twisted his mouth into a frown. Better start off on the right foot, walk in mean, talk tough, squint like a miniature Clint Eastwood with saddle sores. Ready to eat nails and shit bullets.
Freeman got out of the car and tried out a strut. He took a breath of air and thought something was wrong. Then he realized that he wasn’t smelling garbage and smog and car exhaust. The air was clean, cool, ripe with the fresh scent of pine and running water. So this was that Appalachian Mountain air that everybody had talked about when they promised he was going to a better place.
Marvin opened the trunk and retrieved the gym bag that contained all of Freeman’s earthly possessions. Freeman looked up at the window again, real casual, so cool that he was probably exhaling frost. The face, or whatever it was, shimmered and disappeared.
Freeman’s mouth fell open, definitely uncool.
Must have been the sun. A reflection of a cloud. Faces didn’t just disappear.
Freeman shouldered his gym bag and followed Marvin up the stairs. Marvin even moved cool, with an athletic grace. Freeman was tempted to imitate the driver’s smooth stride, but it was hard to be smooth and jerky-tough at the same time, so he stuck with the limping strut.
Marvin held open one of the doors and slipped his sunglasses into his jacket pocket. “Welcome home.”
Home. Freeman had heard that before. At least a dozen times in the last six years.
The smell of the place wafted from the hall like liquid, sucked the fresh air out of his lungs and replaced it with a heavy corruption, like the funk of wet, moldy newspapers.
“Wendover, here I come,” he said cheerfully, in hopes of fooling good old Marvin.
He stepped inside the building and it was like stepping from day into night without passing dusk on the way, his eyes slowly adjusting to the gloom. The hallway ceiling stretched twenty feet above. The floor was tiled, spattered gray and brown, the kind that hid blood stains and vomit. A strip of worn red carpet lay along its middle like a weary tongue.
“Mister Mills,” came a high, thin voice. A man’s voice, but not a manly, jock-itch man’s. Some do-gooder wimp. Freeman looked up from the pointy toes of the shiny leather shoes before him.“You talking to me?” Freeman said. De Niro in “Taxi Driver,” not Eastwood, but Freeman figured a Clint squint wouldn’t fly in the bad light. He tried the line again, changing the emphasis of the syllables. “You talking to me?”
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